Thursday, May 22, 2008

Riding on the North Side

I live in the south suburbs of Chicago. I work in Hyde Park, 6 mile short of the epicenter of Chicago. Most of my motorcycle riding is going further south with an occasional jaunt into the downtown area. Well, I had a meeting to attend at Northwestern University and decided to make it a motorcycle ride through the city. The ride reminded me why I don't enjoy riding inside of Chicago propper and why I ride Metra to work. I didn't leave home until 10:00 in order to miss any morning rush. The ride on the Dan Ryan and Lake Shore Drive was a breeze. Once LSD ended, I took Sheridan Rd all the way until NWU. This 4 lane road is extremely tight and congested. My meeting ended and I was back on the Connie for the ride home by 3:15. Sheridan Rd was even worst with congestion and the road itself is not in the best of condition. LSD was OK but you don't want to change lanes anywhere north of the Belmont exit because of the worn out canyons in between the lanes. The Dan Ryan was backed up and I worked on 1st gear and the friction zone for miles. The 50 minute ride to NWU turned into an hour and 45 minute ride home in traffic. At least I was able to spend some daytime hours riding the Connie during the week. There is always a silver lining.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everyone passes

I taught a 3 day Basic Rider Course at Lansing Airport this past weekend. It was my fourth class of the training season and my 15th overall. This weekends class was the first class where all of the riders (10 of 10) passed the riding and written evaluation. I needed this little boost because my last class only had 4 of 8 riders pass the riding evaluation. There really is no rhyme or reason, just chance. 20 hours of instruction (12 on the bikes) is not very long for an inexperienced person to learn how to ride a motorcycle. But even if they don't pass, they have learned enough that usually with practice or by taking a class again, they might get their license.

This was my first time teaching at the Lansing Airport. The course itself inspires a little confidence (or at least doesn't add to uneasiness). The riding course is a concrete airplane parking area off of an taxi area. Most of our other sites are asphalt with cracks, loose gravel, and some small pot holes. You may say good because it's like the road. Not me, it think it makes some student nervous trying to corning for the first time and crossing a 2 inch crack every lap. But we march on, teaching and facilitating the bright eyed enthusiasts. It is a joy to teach these classes.


Walking to the train in Hyde Park, I came across my first Spyder . I would have liked to catch the rider of it on the bike because I would have liked to see the rider's riding position. Anyway, the Spyder definitely has a cool factor about it. The web sight offers a few videos to see the Spyder in action. At least with a 500W alternator, riding in winter with heated gear would be an option.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Being sensitive

One of my favorite subjects to talk about while teaching a basic motorcycle class is riding gear. The approach to this topic is really by the book with 2 pieces of nice to know information (i.e. 1/3 of head impacts during crashes are on the jaw). Inevitably, either experienced or newbie riders bring gear their the class. It's important to recognize that wearing protective gear and type of protective gear are personal choices that each rider makes. As an instructor we need to clearly distinguish the benefits of type of protective gear (for example full face vs 3/4 vs half helmets). It's then that sticking to the book is more important when distinguishing differences so that a rider doesn't feel defensive or awkward when what they have does not provide the optimum level of protection. I just respectively have the rider's discuss the features in the book. When pressed for information about my riding gear choice (i.e. full face only for me), I make it clear it is my personal choice as I manage my own exposure to risk while riding. It's our job to make sure that the riders have all of the correct information so that they make well informed choices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Well kept

I have noticed this old Goldwing parked in front of Powells Bookstore in Hype Park this Spring. It must be running because it's not there in the morning. Besides a Sport Touring motorcycle, there is a part of me that would like to have an old standard like this Honda 750 or a KZ1000.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Night time visability

I like the following picture. It's in front of the Regenstein Library before a ride home after working the evening shift at the library. My ride is on the left and a friend's scooter is on the right. Neither bike is on and the illumination is from retro-reflective decal. The large white sections on my bad are black during the day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where did the road go?

Tuesday is my night to work at the reference desk at the library. On these days, I don't need to come into work until around 11:00, so it's the one day a week I try to ride the Connie into work. After closing the desk at 8:00, I geared up for the evening ride out to Homewood from Hyde Park. At some point on the Dan Ryan, my low beam headlight went out. Everything just seemed a little dark. I didn't realize it was my headlight for a few more miles. Scary thought that I was surrounded by 70 mph traffic riding without a headlight. Once I realized it, I tried the high beams and they worked thank goodness. Next was my worry that I would get pulled over for riding with high beams on but figured once I showed the officer my low beams were out I would be fine. While my high beam may have irritated some drivers, I think all of us are getting used to new car low beams which are brighter than in the past. It just so happened that I finally came across a police officer within a block of my house (he didn't notice me either).

Getting home was one thing, changing the headlight bulb is another whole story. With the full fairing and little room, it's a bear to get access to the headlamp assembly. There is a small panel that comes off underneath the headlamp that is supposed to give you access. With that panel off, there was minimal access, but not enough for my fat hands to maneuver the plug, boot, spring hinge, and bulb. Then I remembered an message on a list that said to remove the small right top panel that housed the glove type box. With that removed, I had manageable access and was able to change the bulb. Tonight will include a run to the MC shop for acquire another spare bulb.

Thank goodness for list serves and forums, otherwise it may have been necessary to take the bike into the shop in despair.